Self-Care for Parents of Children with Special Needs

Mother kissing child

As a special needs parent, your self- care regimen is important. Caring for a child with special needs can be stressful.  In fact, the word stressful may be an understatement.  We all can attest that there are great days where our kids achieve something that we thought would not happen as soon as it did.  Your fellow special needs parents can understand the joy of a child eating a new food or acquiring a new skill or even speaking after countless doctors have told you that your child is nonverbal and will remain that way.

There is another thing I think we all can agree with when it comes to being parents of children with special needs and that is the fact that we often neglect to take care of ourselves.  As a busy mother of four children – one having an autism diagnosis – I am guilty if not taking care of myself like I should.  The following are a few ways that we can practice self-care.

Take 5-10 minutes for yourself

Depending on your situation, this suggestion may seem virtually impossible.  But you can do it.  You can spend this time mindlessly doodling.  Or you can use this time to just taking deep, cleansing breaths.  Deep breathing allows your body to relax and release any stress while giving you a boost of energy.  The life of a special needs parent can be very hectic and stressful.  Taking mental breaks can be just the thing you need to get you through your day.

Every day is not going to be a good day

We would all like to think that we can hold it together all day every day.  We hold the belief so tightly that we often think we have failed if we have a bad day.  Every day is not going to be a good day.  A bad day does not make you a bad parent. A bad day does not mean that you are not cut out to be a special needs parent or caregiver.  A bad day does not make you a failure.  Try your best to keep things in perspective.  Some days are just going to be hard but, as cliché’ as it sounds, tomorrow is a new day.

Allow yourself to feel

Life can be challenging as a special needs parent.  There is the constant worry that all of your child’s needs are not being met.  There is the isolation that your family may experience due to your child not being able to be around large crowds or loud places.  You may feel hesitant to honestly express yourself due to not wanting to sound like you are complaining.  But it is imperative that you allow yourself to feel whatever you may be feeling in the moment. Whether you journal or whether you have a good friend you can share your feelings with, allow yourself to feel. Allowing yourself to feel is a form of self-care because this can release some of your anxieties.

Be kind to yourself

Sometimes we can be our own enemy. We can often become hindered by own negative self-talk and negative thoughts. Do whatever you can to remain positive.  Remind yourself of the great job that you are doing. Find something to do that is just for you. Read a good book even if you can only read a couple of pages a day. Find a show that you like on TV and watch it even if it takes forever to get through the whole series. The point is to not lose yourself and to stay connected to what you enjoy. So write if you like to write, read if you like to read, do whatever it is that you like to do even if you can only do it every now and then. Doing what you like to do it a form of self-care.

Take care of your mental health

Special needs parents experience a wide range of issues. There is guilt, anxiety, stress, depression, the list goes on and on. It is imperative that you take care of your mental health. Surround yourself with people who encourage and uplift you.  This can be achieved through support groups or through connecting with people who have a similar circumstance to yours. Be aware of your mental health and do not hesitate to see a therapist if you feel that that is what you need.  In other words, your self-care journey includes taking care of your mental health needs the same way that you take care of the needs of those that you care for and love.

Mother and son

It is not easy being the parent or caregiver of a special needs child. You always wonder if you are doing enough and you can sometimes be your own toughest critic.  I am here to tell you that you are doing a great job. You get up every day and do it have to be done for your family. Keep doing what you are doing and remember to take care of yourself.

What other self-care ideas would you add to this list?

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5 Benefits of Positive Thinking

Woman thinking positively and smiling
Photo by Caio Cardenas on Pexels.com

My last couple of posts have been on barriers to positivity and ways to achieve mindfulness.  This week’s post is going to focus on the benefits of positive thinking.  It can often be challenging to think positively and to always look at the bright side. Although it is challenging there are so many benefits to positive thinking. 

Woman holding firecracker and thinking positively

Positive Thinking Gives Hope

Have you ever been in a situation where the only think you had was the hope that everything was going to be all right?  Hope is often lost when you only dwell on the things that can go wrong.  By its definition, hope is the expectation and desire that something will happen.  When things are beginning to look bleak and your thoughts are beginning to shift to the negative, positive thinking can help you get focused on positive outcomes.  Positive thinking can often give you renewed hope in situations that you felt were hopeless. 

Woman looking resilient due to thinking positively

Positive Thinking Leads to Resilience

Consistent positive thinking leads to positive thinking becoming a habit.  It will become second nature to see the good in a situation and you will find that you do not always consciously talk yourself into thinking positively.  Resilience will make you better able to respond to adversity of tough circumstances with the belief that everything will work out in the long run.  Focusing on positive outcomes, and only positive outcomes, can help build the resilience that you need to make it through tough times.

Attract Other Positive People

Having a positive outlook on life will make it more likely that you will want that for other people.  Your positivity will lead you to encourage others and to want nothing but positive outcomes for them.  Consistent positive people will either attract people to you or drive people away from you.  Those with a not so positive outlook will either adapt or slowly distance themselves.  In the end, your circle will consist of those individuals whose positive thinking matches yours.  This will lead you to having a more positive set of friends and acquaintances who will consistently reciprocate your positivity.

Gratitude

Positive thinking helps you to see the positive side of things – even the things we often take for granted. When you consistently think negatively, you can miss the good things that are happening around you.  Negative thinking can sometimes have you thinking that nothing is going right and that there is nothing to be grateful.  Positive thinking will open your eyes to see the many things that you should be thankful for.  This gratitude can help you enjoy life more as you remain grateful for all that you have. This gratefulness can go a long way while working towards the things that you desire.

Better Mental Health

When you focus your energy on thinking positively, you may feel that a lot of the worries and heaviness that you carry around is alleviated.  Having a more positive outcome can help to ease anxiety which can lead to less stress.  As many of us know, stress is one of those things that can take a life of its own.  Positive thinking has been shown to lessen bouts of anxiety and depression and leading to a more consistent positive outlook on life.  Positive thinking can also help you gain a more positive view of yourself which can lead to more positive self-talk which increase your sense of self-worth.

Woman celebrating improved mental health because she started thinking positively

As you can see there are quite a few benefits to thinking positively.  Over time and with practice, hopefully you will begin to experience these benefits.

What would you add to this list?

4 Common Barriers to Positivity

Stressed lady

So I am going to start this off by acknowledging that there are many barriers to positivity. Getting and remaining positive can be a challenge.  It may be even harder during these times because so many not so positive things are happening right now.  People are losing jobs, businesses are going under, parents are trying to work from home while supervising children who are attending school virtually.  It is a lot.  It is easy to feel that there is not much to be positive about.  I have often thought this myself.  But sometimes positivity is exactly what you need in times like these. 

Looking at Your Reality

It is hard to be positive when your reality appears very bleak.  Our day to day lives are stressful and can feel like a rat race.  We go to work, we take care of our children, we run our errands, and then we wake up the next morning to do it all again.  When our lives look the same day in and day out, it is not so much that you are sad, it is just that there is nothing especially positive happening.  Your rut can put you into a space of accepting that your rat race is all that life has to offer.

Nothing Positive is Happening

You ever experience a space in time where it seems like nothing is going right?  Or let’s make it more relevant to what is going on today.  What if you have had your hours cut on your job due to COVID-19 and now you are wondering how you are going to pay your rent or mortgage.  Then your job search is hindered because you have to supervise your school age children while they attend school virtually.   I have been in situations where people have advised that I be positive and I have challenged them to tell me to find the positive in my situation.  It is very, very hard to think positive when your perception of your reality is very negative. Your perception of your reality can be a huge barrier to positivity.

Making Speaking Negatively a Habit

We all may engage in a little negative self-talk from time to time. Read my previous post on eliminating negative self-talk here.   The key is to not to give that negative voice too much of a place in your thoughts.  If negative thinking and negative self-talk is what normally goes through your mind throughout the day, then it has become a habit.  It is very hard for positive thoughts to break through when the negative thoughts are easier to access.  Negative self-talk can become a habit without you even realizing it.  This can make it very hard for you to think positively.

The Company You Keep

You ever had someone in your circle who always has something negative to say?  Some people call these type of people Negative Nancies or Debbie Downers.  The bottom line is that it is very hard to keep a positive outlook when you have people around you who constantly remind you of what could go wrong, where your shortfalls lie, and why you will not achieve a certain goal.  The company you keep and what they feed your spirit is almost as bad as negative self-talk.  Positive thinking is hard when you surround yourself with negative people.

lady by water who is trying to be positive

So I have acknowledged a few barriers to positive thinking but I am sure there are more.  As you can see, positive thinking is a choice and there are many things that can keep you from thinking positively. 

What other things do you consider to be barriers to positivity?

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